Visit Biarritz (Aquitaine, France)
Biarritz is a popular and lively town on the Atlantic coast in south-west France (in the Atlantic-Pyrenees department of Aquitaine). It has a great deal of appeal while avoiding some of the excessive crowding of the French Riviera. An interesting destination, Biarritz is a charming town with the glimpse at the wealth the town had in days gone by only adding to its charm.
The wealth of Biarritz was founded in the middle ages on whaling, but as early as the 18th century the focus of the town was turning towards the beaches, originally because doctors started recommending the Biarritz seafront as a cure for various ailments. Napoleon famously bathed in the sea here in 1808.
By the middle of the 19th century the reputation of Biarritz as a fashionable destination was firmly established - a popularity that continues to this day especially due to its reputation as surfing capital of France.
There are several beaches in Biarritz, including 'La Grande Plage' - the central beach in the resort. You will probably find that the beaches at Port Vieux and Milady (among others) are less crowded than the Grande Plage.
However Grande Plage is superb and provides much of the appeal of Biarritz. It is a long sandy beach with the lighthouse on a rocky outcrop, Point St Martin, at one end and Pointe Atalaye and the Rocher de la vierge at the other and a few well placed large rocks in the water to add to the interest and beauty of the scene.
In a central position on the beach is the casino. A perfect spot to sit on the terrace, sip a glass of wine or have lunch and watch the waves breaking onto the beach. It’s not too expensive either given its prime position.
Biarritz itself rises up behind the beach and lots of old hotels face the sea, and yes they are a bit faded but each is individual with lots of interesting architectural details and many really are beautiful.
The walk along the beach and up around the Pointe Atalaye is one I would be happy to do every day of my life. Up around the point there are lots of little coves, walkways to some of the rocks including the Rocher de la Vierge, with the statue of the Virgin, which has become the symbol of Biarritz.
Down below is the Port des Pecheurs with a few lovely little fishing cottages – now restaurants which are great for sea-food, dishes with a Basque influence and tapas. They overlook the tiny little walled marina, home to a few smallish boats and yachts.
The rocks are covered in lots of vegetation whose colours blend beautifully with the blues and greens of the sea below. Down the slopes from the town to the sea yuccas and agaves grow happily amongst beautiful lush hydrangeas – a combination unlikely to be found in many places as hydrangeas need water and agaves don’t!
As I walked around the cove a group of school children were being taught to surf – is this what they do in school sports lessons around here? – Amazing.
Further round the coast is the Plage de la Cote des Basques, the backdrop to the beach is less beautiful here (more modern apartment blocks) but to the south you can see the mountains of the Pyrenees.
Places to visit in Biarritz except the beach
Although the focus of the town is definitely seaward, Biarritz has various highlights to discover in the town itself, starting just behind the beach.
Up above the beaches is the cathedral church of St Eugenie, a bit bleak and grey amongst the softer yellower tones of most of the buildings. Next to the church the Place St Eugenie though is another nice spot to sit and relax.
Above the Plage Miramar and the Pointe St Martin is the very impressive Hotel du Palais which was the Villa Eugenie built by Napoleon III for Eugenie who he met in Biarritz.
The town itself has lots of very nice shops and is very pleasant to stroll around. In recent years part of the city has become pedestrianised, helping relieve some of the congestion you might have experienced if you last visited Biarritz several years ago. These include:
- several museums, dedicated to such varied subjects as chocolate, asian art and the ocean. The last will be the most fun with children, and has many aquariums
- smaller churches of some interest (the most impressive is the Russian Orthodox domed church)
- some more casinos
- there are also various grand 19th century hotels and townhouses to admire as you explore
It is for the surfing that many visitors come to Biarritz, based on the good wave conditions along this part of the Atlantic. Various surfing competitions and events are also held that contribute further to the town's surf reputation, such as the annual Biarritz Surf Festival.
Note that not all Biarritz beaches allow surfing, some because of the undercurrents and others because of crowds and the risk of injury. If you have never surfed but would like to give it a try, there are training schools that will help you get started. The main surfing beaches are found at Anglet just beyond Pointe St Martin.
Biarritz is also very well known as the golf capital of France, and has several very highly regarded golf courses to choose from in the vicinity.
Photos of Biarritz
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Address: Biarritz, Bayonne, Pyrenees-Atlantiques, Aquitaine, 64200 || GPS: latitude 43.4817, longitude -1.55611
Map of Biarritz & places nearby
Highlights close by
Saint Jean de Luz 13km
Suggested tourist attractions to visit near Biarritz, France
- Anglet - ville fleurie 4* (3km)
- Bayonne cathédrale St Marie (monuments on French pilgrim routes) - heritage site (6km)
- Bayonne - secteur sauvegarde (7km)
- Jardins de la villa Arnaga - remarkable garden (19km)
- Marais d'Orx - site of natural beauty (19km)
- Sare - most beautiful village (19km)
- Ainhoa - most beautiful village (20km)
- La Bastide-Clairence - most beautiful village (25km)
- Porte St Jacques - St Jean Pied-de-Port (monuments on French pilgrim routes) - heritage site (44km)
The French version of this page is at Biarritz (Francais)